When Change Means Survival

Welcome to my Second Acts Series!

Today, we have a different kind of second act. A character in Soul Mate author Linda Bennett Pennell’s novel, Confederado do Norte, is sharing her reinvention story.

Here’s Mary Catherine!

Confederado-Soulmate 105_105x158 (2)Set during the aftermath of the American Civil War, Confederado do Norte tells the story of Mary Catherine MacDonald Dias Oliveira Atwell, a child torn from her war devastated home in Georgia and thrust into the primitive Brazilian interior where the young woman she becomes must learn to recreate herself in order to survive.

Mary Catherine’s first recreation began when she was just a child of 10. Here is a mature Mary Catherine sharing that first recreation in her own words.

My story began at the end of a long war in which many lives and much property were destroyed. After all these years, I can still smell the acrid smoke coming off the ash heap that was the farmhouse where my parents and I once lived. It is as though no time at all has passed since Sherman’s March to the Sea. The only thing that Mama, my beloved nurse Bess, and I could do was watch from our hiding place and wish that Papa wasn’t so far away fighting.

When Papa finally found his way home from the war, it was as a changed man – bitter, lost, and given to unpredictable rages followed by deep melancholia. Even so, we were happy to have him home because we believed he would one day return to himself. If it hadn’t been for a newspaper article and a handful of advertisements my life would have turned out quite differently. As it was, it took little to convince Papa that leaving home was the only solution left to defeated Southerners. Emperor Dom Pedro II’s promise of free land in Brazil’s heartland and subsidized passage sealed our fate.

Shortly after we immigrated, my mother died of galloping consumption, leaving me in the care of my father and my mother’s only surviving brother, Nathan. Papa’s mercurial nature coupled with Nathan’s hatred of me left me uncertain and confused. You see, Nathan blamed me for my mother’s death. The fear that he might be right haunted me, but when I learned Nathan was demanding I be returned to family in Georgia, I became determined to do everything possible to prevent it. I had already lost Mama. I couldn’t bear being separated from Papa as well. At the age of ten, I became a self-taught housekeeper – cooking, cleaning, washing the clothes, tending the vegetable garden, preserving food – nothing was beyond my scope.

By age twelve I decided to pile my long auburn hair up on my head as I had once seen Mama do. It was safer and cooler when I did the housework. Nathan said I was too young to flounce around like a grown woman, but Papa said I did the work of two women so to leave me alone. It came as a shock when I realized that I really didn’t feel like a girl anymore. Somewhere between lifting wet clothes out of the wash pot and cooking on the wood fired stove, I had made the transition from little girl to young woman. Somehow all that I had experienced made that little girl seem like a stranger, as though I were a different person completely. Before I was twenty-one, I would recreate myself two more times because my life and freedom would depend on it.


lindapI have been in love with the past for as long as I can remember. Anything with a history, whether shabby or majestic, recent or ancient, instantly draws me in. I suppose it comes from being part of a large extended family that spanned several generations. Long summer afternoons on my grandmother’s porch or winter evenings gathered around her fireplace were filled with stories both entertaining and poignant. Of course being set in the American South, those stories were also peopled by some very interesting characters, some of whom have found their way into my work.

As for my venture in writing, it has allowed me to reinvent myself. We humans are truly multifaceted creatures, but unfortunately we tend to sort and categorize each other into neat, easily understood packages that rarely reveal the whole person. Perhaps you, too, want to step out of the box in which you find yourself. I encourage you to look at the possibilities and imagine. Be filled with childlike wonder in your mental wanderings. Envision what might be, not simply what is. Let us never forget, all good fiction begins when someone says to her or himself, “Let’s pretend.”

I reside in the Houston area with one sweet husband and one adorable German Shorthaired Pointer who is quite certain she’s a little girl.

Favorite quote regarding my professional passion: “History is filled with the sound of silken slippers going downstairs and wooden shoes coming up.” Voltaire

Where to find Linda Pennell…

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Amazon

Joanne here!

Linda, thanks for giving us insight in Mary Catherine’s early life. I’m putting Confederado do Norte on my TBR list.

Living Life Without Regrets

Welcome to my Second Acts Series!

Today, we have Patti Pokorchak sharing the adventures of her multi-layered life.

Here’s Patti!


First Act

Patti at her IBM Graduation[/caption]Until I was 25, I was a pretty normal but driven kid. I skipped Grade 4, graduated with a computer-programming diploma from Ryerson Polytechnic Institute (college) and started working at IBM when I was still a teenager. Having vowed to never go to university, I returned to Ryerson to get not one but two degrees. My first never say never episode. Returned to IBM where I proceeded to make too much money at a young age.

Patti at her IBM Graduation

Patti at her IBM Graduation

What triggered the need for change?

The fear of regret was the impetus to leave everything behind including a promising career, boyfriend, and lifestyle that was supposedly everything most people would ever want. But, I was neither happy nor content. Having spent six weeks in Europe between my two degrees, I had vowed to return for a longer period of time. I had saved $20,000, so money was not the issue. It was not waiting around for someone else to come with me. Time to act or regret it for the rest of my life!

Second Act

After my year of travel, I didn’t want to go home, back to all that was so familiar to me. I found a job and place to live in Munich where I had an established base of friends that I had made. My German was pretty basic, but my IBM training was a great foundation. My MBA was not recognized at that time in Germany but my tech background was attractive to startups. Being a foreign female in the technology world had its challenges AND perks. I rapidly made a name for myself, got headhunted for my second job by the American President because my English was so poor (yes, it is my mother tongue but I had so integrated myself into the German language, that my English was rusty).

After four years of working at three start-ups in Germany, it was time to leave, as I had had to change my personality in order to succeed in business in Germany. Life’s too short to do that for long. Plus I had a British boyfriend who lived in Geneva and I loved the British sense of humour as well as their more open and equitable business culture.

With a few months as a ‘homeless’ person (British car, German driver’s license and Canadian passport but officially did not live anywhere), by the time my UK work permit came through, I was ready to be laid off again. Technology – gotta love it. My second company proved to have more staying power and I finally returned to help start their Canadian operation, based in Ottawa.

Third Act

After trying another large tech company for a horrible seven months, in 1992, I finally said enough and started the first of several businesses. I helped start and run a software company for 10 years before moving to the country and opening up a garden center and hobby farm (Act 4?).

Patti on the farm

Patti on the farm

Where are you now?

Back in Toronto, my hometown after my 30-year detour, I’m now the Small Biz Sales Coach — my final business (I swear it is!). After 35 years of selling and starting from being a geeky shy insecure introvert, I know what it’s like to be scared of selling and eventually learning how to have fun with it. I love helping others get over the fear of sales and asking for more money!

To have fun and make money is the only way to live!

Do you have advice for anyone planning to pursue a second act?

Imagine yourself at age 95 – what would you regret not having done? Those are your dreams of today.

Remember you’ll regret NOT having done something when you’re older and no longer able to do whatever that is.

Just do it!

Coming Soon

My Book – The Reinvention Rebel – Live Life Without Regrets!

Make your passion profitable with my proven practical advice!

Where to find Patti…

Website: http://SmallBizSalesCoach.ca

Telephone: 416-951-3842

Email: Patti@SmallBizSalesCoach.ca

Joanne here!

Patti, thank you for sharing your adventures. You are definitely a poster child for reinvention. I look forward to the release of The Reinvention Rebel.

Happy Autumn!


Whenever I look out at Nature’s breathtaking fall palette, I am inspired and invigorated to start anew. Anything and everything is possible during the cool, crisp days of autumn.

Some of my favorite quotations…

Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns. George Eliot

No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace
As I have seen in one autumnal face. John Donne

Autumn, the year’s last loveliest smile. William Cullen Bryant

Autumn, the mellower season, and what we lose in flowers we more than gain in fruits. Samuel Butler

Every leaf speaks bliss to me, fluttering from the autumn. Emily Dickinson

Winter is an etching, spring a watercolor, summer an oil painting, and autumn a mosaic of them all. Stanley Horowitz

Autumn asks that we prepare for the future—that we be wise in the ways of garnering and keeping. But it also asks that we learn to let go—to acknowledge the beauty of sparseness. Bonaro W. Overstreet

I’ve never known anyone yet who doesn’t suffer a certain restlessness when autumn rolls around…We’re all eight years old and anything is possible. Sue Grafton

Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower. Albert Camus

Even if something is left undone, everyone must take time to sit still and watch the leaves turn. Elizabeth Lawrence

Your Time to Shine

Welcome to my Second Acts Series!

Today, we have Soul Mate Author Gay Yellen sharing her extraordinary journey from high school Economics class to literary publication via Hollywood.

Here’s Gay!

gayyellen1Thanks, Joanne, for inviting me to share my Second Act, though my journey feels more like a full-on odyssey. But I’ll try to keep it to two.

First Act: I’ve always written. Dr. Seuss was an early influence, and I still write silly verse for fun. In high school I wrote my best poetry in Economics class, to the chagrin of my teacher. But my writing career didn’t begin until after I got Hollywood out of my system.

The need for change: Performing came naturally to me. After college I moved to L.A. and began an acting career. While I managed to get film and TV work, I hated the life (yes, it’s as tough as the stories you hear).

First Act, Part 2: I decided to apply to the Director’s Guild, which led to a job behind the camera as the Assistant to the Director of Production at The American Film Institute. I worked with thesis film students on their productions, helped cast actors, secure and manage location shooting, arrange with major studios to use their back lots for filming, their props, costumes, etc., and facilitated editing and post-production.

The need for change: I loved working at AFI, but the pay was meager.

Second Act, Part 1: A friend heard that a magazine needed a last-minute substitute to cover a story over the weekend. I jumped at it, even though I didn’t know a thing about the subject, or about magazines, for that matter. After I turned in the article, the magazine offered me an editing position. It paid much more than the AFI job, so I took it. In a couple of years, I moved to another magazine, where a series I wrote won a national journalism award.

Second Act, Part 2: A book! I helped write an international thriller, Five Minutes to Midnight, which was my first taste of book publishing. Soon after, I fell in love, married, and thought I was finally free to try my hand at a solo novel.

Second Act, Part 3: I’d just completed the first draft of The Body Business when my husband asked me for help with the advertising for his new national marketing firm. “Can you come up to the office this afternoon and tell me why my ads in The Wall Street Journal aren’t working?” he pleaded. “You’ve been in magazines, so you know about advertising.”

I tried to explain that editors don’t normally deal with the ad department, but he was my husband, so I went. Fifteen years later, after creating countless marketing pieces, ads, and even investment prospectuses, we sold the company, and I retired as its V.P. of client and media communications, and advertising.

Second Act, Part 4: Finally, I was free to do my own work. I dusted off the old rough draft of my book and discovered that it had become a period piece, with pay phones, typewriters and snail mail playing pivotal roles in the action. I updated it to the 21st Century, put it through a critique circle and found Soul Mate Publishing. The Body Business was published in 2014.

Where are you now?

I’m working furiously on the sequel to The Body Business, and there are other projects in queue. I’m happy to finally affirm that writing is no longer my first, second or tenth act. It’s what I do.


Work to be as good as you can at what you do, and believe that your time to shine will come.

TheBodyBusiness3_850 (2)


A great career. Fantastic boyfriend. Samantha Newman has it all, until her best friend vanishes, and doubt creeps in. Forced to choose between the success she’s worked hard to achieve and the hidden truth behind it, she risks everything and discovers a dark secret that could destroy her life forever.

Where to find Gay…

Website | Amazon | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

Joanne here!

What a whirlwind! If you ever run out of ideas for novels, consider writing your memoirs. Thank you for an entertaining and inspiring post.

Life is for Living

Welcome to my Second Acts Series!

Today, we have author and Acquisitions Editor Katie Hamstead chatting about a very early second act.

Here’s Katie!

katie-teller-author-photo-2-3 (2)Briefly describe your early acts.

Early acts… Well, I feel like I’m still fairly early in life since I’m 27. So I guess my acts consist of school, post high school to marriage, then married life. High school days were tough, but fun. I had the bullying and isolation going on, but to be honest, I’m kind of glad I went through all of that. Not that I enjoyed it, but the bullying made me stronger, and the isolation made me understand what real friends are and the qualities in people I enjoy associating with and that uplift and strengthen me. But high school was fun, in that I could explore my talents and hobbies. Along with writing stories on scrap notebook pages, I loved singing and sports, which I don’t get much chance to do either of any more. I miss playing and performing terribly.

After high school, I kind of went into “party” mode. Finally I was free. I did a stint as an exchange student (BEST choice I ever made, I highly recommend it to anyone who has a chance) I got a job, I traveled, I moved around, I sought out higher education, and I made friends with people who really helped boost my confidence and let the real me shine out. My years from 18-22 were a blast, even though there were moments of pain and grief unlike any other period before. But with all negative experiences, I try to glean lessons from them, to help me grow.

I married at 22, so have been married for just over 5 years. When I married, I migrated to the USA from Australia. I’m an Aussie, born and raised! And my hubby is a Native American (Navajo). This act eventually led me to my writing when I a) wasn’t allowed to work due to visa restrictions and b) got pregnant right when my restrictions got lifted, so no one wanted to employ me. As a result, I found myself with lots of time on my hands, so one thing led to another and I picked up my writing again.

What triggered the need for change?

It my last act, boredom mostly. I needed something to fill the time while my hubby was at work. I’d grown tired of being homesick, so wanted to get productive. Actually, that’s kind of what triggers most of my changes. I get bored with what I’m doing with my life. That’s pretty honest, right?

Where are you now?

Now I’m in a pretty good place. I love writing, acquiring for CQ and being a wife and mother… although I am getting restless. I think we need to move or do something to shake things up a bit.

Do you have advice for anyone planning to pursue a second act?

Go ahead! Life is for living, pursuing your dreams, and growing. Why just exist? Make your life worth every breath you take.

branded (2)


Terrorists have invaded Sydney, and Allison King barely escapes her brother’s wedding reception alive. She and her siblings flee, but their parents are killed by firing squad.

Now Ali’s on the run and terrified. While searching for other survivors, she is captured by the General who leads the invasion. He’s smitten by Ali, and when she refuses to submit to his whims, he brands her for death. In a wild act of defiance, she snatches the branding rod and sears the mark onto his face. Marking not only him but also sealing her fate. Ali manages to escape and flees into the bush once more where she finds a group in hiding. Even with the scars left by the General, Ali learns to love and falls in love with the young man who found her—Damien Rogers.

But the General is hunting her. When he discovers their location, and finds her with another man—Damien—his wrath is kindled and his obsession is inflamed. Ali must put herself on the line or the General could kill her family, those who help her, and most significantly, the man she loves.


Born and raised in Australia, Katie’s early years of day dreaming in the “bush”, and having her father tell her wild bedtime stories, inspired her passion for writing.

After graduating High School, she became a foreign exchange student where she met a young man who several years later she married. Now she lives in Arizona with her husband, daughter and their dog.

She has a diploma in travel and tourism which helps inspire her writing. She currently works as an Acquisitions Editor with Curiosity Quills Press to help support her family.

Katie loves to out sing her friends and family, play sports and be a good wife and mother. She loves to write, and takes the few spare moments in her day to work on her novels.

Where to find Katie…

Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon

Joanne here!

I am impressed by your can-do attitude and ability to deal with boredom. Thank you for sharing your journey and best of luck with all your literary endeavors.

Oprah and Paulo Coelho


Yesterday, Oprah welcomed bestselling author Paulo Coelho to Super Soul Sunday. Paulo is celebrating the 25th anniversary of a true phenomenon: The Alchemist. Since publication, this magical allegory about an Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago who travels from Spain to Egypt in search of treasure has broken all records. Over 65 million copies have been sold and it is the most translated book in history.

I was fascinated by Paulo’s early history and the near-death of The Alchemist.

Born into a middle- class family in Rio de Janeiro, he was expected to follow in his father’s footsteps and become an engineer. When Paulo rebelled, his parents bribed him and, when that failed, they committed him to a mental institution from which he escaped three times before being released at the age of 20. Paulo made it clear that his parents truly loved him but were not comfortable with the idea of a son following a creative path.

thealchemistOriginally, Paulo launched The Alchemist through a small Brazilian publishing house. Initial sales were dismal and the publisher decided not to reprint. Passionate and committed to its success, Paulo found a larger publishing house and from there the book took off. Both Oprah and Paulo stressed the book reached the critical masses because of famous (Bill Clinton, Madonna, Will Smith) and more importantly, anonymous readers.

Throughout the telecast, Paulo shared wonderful observations and insights.

We all have a personal legend. And the key behind that legend is enthusiasm. We need to ask ourselves what gives us enthusiasm, keeping in mind that we betray our personal legend whenever we do something without enthusiasm.

We become fluent in the language of the world by daring, and we learn this language by paying attention and making mistakes. Omens and signs are everywhere. We need to look at everything as if we are seeing it for the first time.

Paulo believes that God will ask: “Did you love enough?” Here, Paulo is not referring to romantic love but whether we are able to open our hearts to embrace every grain of sand.

Quotable Quotes

Remember that wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure.

The heart is like a flower. It can be very brave or easily hurt.

Always listen to your heart, even when it scares you.

Before a dream is realized, the Soul of the World tests everything that was learned along the way. It does this not because it is evil, but so that we can, in addition to realizing our dreams, master the lessons we’ve learned as we’ve moved toward that dream. That’s the point at which most people give up. It’s the point at which, as we say in the language of the desert, one “dies of thirst just when the palm trees have appeared on the horizon.”

And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you get it.

Book Review: Never Too Late

As an author on my own road to reinvention, I’m always on the lookout for stories about women who boldly seek adventures that propel them into second acts. I was thrilled to discover Claire Cook’s delightful novels and read about her extraordinary journey.

Reinvention is a recurring theme in Claire’s life and novels.

nevertoolateShe wrote her first novel at age 45 in a minivan while her children were at swim practice. Five years later, she walked down the red carpet at the Hollywood premiere of Must Love Dogs, the film adaptation of her second book.

After eleven best-selling novels and numerous speaking engagements, Claire has written a nonfiction book, Never Too Late: Your Roadmap to Reinvention (without getting lost along the way).

Using her trademark humor and wit, Claire tells her own story and that of other reinventors while providing tips on finding that sweet spot, staying on track, securing a support system, building a platform, and overcoming perfectionism.

You don’t have to be a writer or midlifer to appreciate this book. It will appeal to any woman who feels stymied or dissatisfied with her present circumstances. And by the end of the book, the reader will be able to answer Claire’s thought-provoking question: “What would you like your life to be in five years and what’s getting in your way?”

Quotable Quotes

Karma is a boomerang.

You don’t have to be good at it—that takes time and hard work. But you have to love it enough to want to be good at it.

If Plan A doesn’t work, the alphabet has 25 more letters (204 if you’re in Japan!).

If failure comes with a lesson, take it. If it doesn’t, put it behind you and move on.

There were only three things standing in my way all that time: me, myself and I.

Dreams don’t have an expiration date. Not even a best by date. If it’s still your dream, it’s still your dream.

Where to find Claire…

Website | Twitter | Facebook